Ask any teacher what their least favorite part of teaching is and the likely answer is “grading.” I know that’s my answer. I hate grading. Hate It! Hate It! Hate It!
I used to spend hours writing lengthy comments only to learn that my students couldn’t read cursive handwriting. Then I worked to create specific rubrics and always found myself vacillating over work that fell in between scores meeting some, but not all of the criteria. I knew other teachers who just gave everyone good grades for showing up and not causing trouble, but that didn’t sit well with me either. I knew there had to be an easier way. I wanted grading to be more consistent, faster and more meaningful.
When I was little, I attended swim lessons where I earned stickers on a star chart when I demonstrated a skill. Can you blow bubbles in the water? Yep. Great, here’s a star. Can you bob under the water? Sure can. Good! Have another star. When can I move up to the next level? That’s easy…just look at your chart. Anything without a star is something that needs more practice. Who knew my teenage swim instructor was the answer to my grading woes?
One surprising benefit of transitioning to skills-based health is that grading can and should be easier. If you want a more effective grading system, test out these three steps.
- Keep it Simple. I simply add the words “Did you…” or “Did the student” in front of the performance indicators I’m looking to assess and then put them into a checklist. This ensures I’m assessing what I’m supposed to.
Look at this example from my middle school analyzing influences lesson. I took the performance indicators from National Health Education Standard # 2 and created a simple checklist.
- Work Backwards. Once I have the check list of performance indicators, I design/use a task that will allow me to assess whether students can or cannot meet the standard. How can the students show me what they know or can do?
After I selected the performance indicators from Standard #2, I had to determine how I could get students to demonstrate these skills. I decided on a activity, in which students had to review a series of case studies to determine what was likely influencing each character’s choices. This was followed with an analysis of their own experience and a closer look at what may be influencing them.
- Think Like A Coach. If we want students to develop & master skills we need to coach them. Rather than spending hours writing comments that students may never read, let alone apply, use the checklist as a tool to foster improvement. I do this by adding an “I tried” score in addition to “Yes” and “No” on my checklist. Students who get an “I tried” are encouraged to try again. This makes feedback relevant, encourages mastery, and reinforces the idea of a growth mindset.
Here’s how I did that with my Analyzing Influences Lesson. Students actually rated themselves before submitting their work.
Want to see the system in action? Check out this Analyzing Influences lesson or this FREE lesson on finding valid health information from Health At School. Each includes a standards-based assessment checklist for fast, easy and meaningful feedback.
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